JB & The Hüggeli – Thank You Blues
11 songs – 42 minutes
JB & The Hüggeli are a blues band from Horsens in Denmark, comprising Jesper Bjarnesen on vocals and guitars, Jais K. Eriksen on bass, Oscar “Big O” Eriksen on drums, Hans Jorgen “Hanse” Jensen on tenor saxophone and Kim Nedergaard on piano. Thank You Blues is their debut album, although each individual member has a blues résumé going back years or even decades. Indeed, bandleader Bjarnesen was playing and singing with the White Shirt Blues Band back in the 1980s.
It’s an impressive debut, with top notch production and engineering by Henrik Skriver at the Strawbale House Studio in Rønde and 11 self-written tracks that run the gamut of traditional Chicago-influenced urban blues styles, with perhaps a hint of early John Mayall as well.
Thank You Blues kicks off with the loping shuffle of “Will You Be Mine” before “Blues Ain’t Always Sad” mines the inexhaustible possibilities of the “Big Boss Man/Hi-Heeled Sneakers” rhythm with Jensen and Bjarnesen trading solos to great effect. Bjarnesen uses a slightly cleaner, less overdriven tone than on some other tracks to really nail the guitar parts.
Bjarnesen is a fine singer, with an agreeably road-worn voice, particularly on the slower, Gary Moore-esque “A Few Things”, and the two Eriksens are a rock-solid rhythm section, equally comfortable on the swinging “Blues House Party” (which features a great solo from Jensen on sax), the 12/8 slow blues of “Love Is On The Move” (on which Bjarnesen really stretches out on guitar) or the country-blues-esque “Smoke Drink And Dance”. This latter tracks also allows Nedergaard’s piano to shine as his playing dances around the vocal melody.
Lyrically, the songs on Thank You Blues focus almost entirely on matters of the heart, with the occasional foray into the joys of playing music (on “Showtime Blues”). Likewise, the music itself does not stray very far from traditional urban blues, but it is played with real heart and commitment. There are also one or two clever musical twists, such as the turnaround in “Hard Boiled”, which stand out as novel and yet fitting.
The Danish blues scene has long been one of the most solid and enthusiastic scenes in Europe and JB & The Hüggeli is one more example of the apparently limitless list of fine bands playing there. Thank You Blues is a very enjoyable release and presages nothing but good things for JB & The Hüggeli going forwards.